The Endless-Eyed Man

9 01 2011

In college I took an Italian Language course with a professor that I would never forget. His name was Mr. Ruthie. He had a thin patch of greasy, white hair. It didn’t look attached, it rested; like if you ever got close enough to touch it, it would fall off. He was an old man, maybe in his early to mid sixties and he ruthlessly wore a hawaiian button down shirt to class every day. You know, the type with palm trees and beaches and coconuts in really flamboyant colors. He smelled of dust and old leather and his eyes were foggy and blue but surrounded by an off-white. The skin below them sagged.
Mr. Ruthie was constantly angry. But that’s not even the right word. It’s so difficult for me to explain. It was as if there was a glass wall in front him and he could always hear you but the emotion, the tone, the facial expressions; they were all filtered out and so he responded with a filtered response. He was very disorganized and constantly late but I guess he had been teaching at the school for like fifty years so they couldn’t really fire him.
One morning I was standing outside of the classroom with the rest of the class waiting for him to arrive. I saw his notorious baby-blue car waffling down the road towards the parking lot. He was clearly going to be late and while he was rushing he had a minor collision with a bulky pepper tree as he rounded the corner. He stepped out of the car to examined the damage. “Fuck,” he said loud enough for us to hear him. He then returned to his car, slammed the door shut and drove 100 more meters to his parking spot.
So it turns out that Mr. Ruthie has a story behind that glass wall that I stared through everyday. His wife and daughter died in a car accident years earlier. His daughter was thirteen when she died.
It’s funny how when you know something so personal about someone, you think you can see it in everything that they do. It dwells in their foggy blue eyes, it’s coded in their italian speech, acted out by their body movements. I wondered if Mr. Ruthie ever had a day in which he didn’t think about his wife and daughter who are now immortal in memory.
Some days I would stop listening to Mr. Ruthie’s Italian and just wonder what lied beneath his words. I found that the silent truth was everywhere.

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One response

13 01 2011
Mister Fischer

What’s with the title?

I like this story. It’s really more of a sketch than a story as it’s more descriptive of character than shaped by plot. I get a good sense of the professor here, but I also start to get a sense of the narrator as well.

If you revise this story, consider bringing in some action, even if it’s small; and think about letting us see even more of this narrator. You make me wonder about her.

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